Why Reykjavík? Part II

Text & photos © Catherine Nichols

TRAVELING DOWN THE HIGHWAY after our first breakfast in the outskirts of Reykjavík, listening to the tour guide go on and on, I learned that, at last count, Iceland had a total population of 350,000—and that 240,000 of the people live in Reykjavík.

I was expecting downtown to be incredibly crowded. I sat back in my seat and sighed, preparing for the onslaught of people and noise. I had just come from a trip to New York—Brooklyn to be exact—and, being an introvert, I was looking forward to a quieter trip.

Gorgeous waterfall

The vulture of doubt hovered above the bus, daring me to look out the window and acknowledge its existence. My neighbor’s question still weighed heavily on my mind: Why would I, or anyone for that matter, travel to Iceland?

Rainbow over Kirkjufells Area

Fortunately, each day I remained in Reykjavík I was shown why Iceland is a magical choice for a summer vacation, and the vulture of doubt eventually disappeared.

I smiled, I laughed, I enjoyed myself, and although I could have done those very same things in any part of the world, I can honestly say that my experiences in Iceland will stay with me forever, and I cannot wait to go back on my own.

Steaming geothermal area

What made Iceland memorable to me? I’m glad you asked! I’ve come up with 10 reasons why I loved Iceland and why you should consider visiting it one day soon.

In no particular order, here are my top 10:

1.) The varied landscape.

One day it’s snow-capped mountains, the next is black sand beach and basalt columns. Or how about a field of grass/moss-covered hardened lava from the volcanoes? Rest your eyes on the flowers and other plants that grow in the less-than-ideal conditions.

The varied landscape

2.) The dramatic skies.

Although it rained on and off for nearly all 9 days we were in Iceland, we saw the most incredible skies. Giant, heavy-with-water clouds filled our vision but with a giant hole allowing blue to escape. Rainbows everywhere when the sun made an appearance. The rainbows were especially welcome in the abundance of gray.

Dramatic skies

3.) Water, water everywhere!

Everywhere we looked, there were waterfalls, rivers, lakes, ponds, and of course the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re as attracted to water as I am, you’ll love Iceland. Water in other forms, too, like those mentioned in #4.

Water in so many forms

4.) Glaciers, geysers, steam vents, and mud pots, oh my!

Fire and ice on the same island. One minute I was standing on, or walking through a glacier, and the next I was getting warmed at a steam vent. The mud pots were so colorful, active, and fun to watch, but they were incredibly stinky from the sulphur. Imagine standing next to something that is 300° Fahrenheit and having a sudden, passing storm dump hail and sleet on you—the very definition of fire and ice.

Visible sulphur deposits

5.) Icelandic people are genuinely nice.

We also came into contact with many people from other countries, and everyone was so helpful.

Iceland is experiencing a boom in tourism and they don’t have enough people to work in the service industries to support the influx of visitors—so they allow guest workers from Scotland, Poland, Russia and Ireland, among others. Our tour guide was born in Australia but lives in London.

We also met many Icelanders at the local museums, as well as at the World Cup-watching parties in the town squares, where giant outdoor TVs displayed the hottest, most muscled, god-like players. Cough, cough, I mean the very athletic, competitive, and capable players!

The Icelandic people

6.) The drinking water.

Why would I mention drinking water from a tap as one of the top 10 reasons I loved visiting Iceland? Because in our part of the world, drinking water straight out of the tap is only for those who are desperate for liquid refreshment at 2 a.m. and don’t want to go all the way downstairs for the heavily filtered water. And the exceptional water in Iceland makes for some great craft beer.

Great craft beer

7.) There are no predatory animals in Iceland.

Who cares? I do, should I ever go back to Iceland and want to camp. I don’t have to wonder if I’ll be mistaken as food for a hungry bear while slumbering in my tent. Although there is an Icelandic fox, it is apparently very shy and does not cause harm to humans.

Icelandic sheep

8.) Very little traffic.

Or, at least, very little traffic compared to what I’m used to in San Diego. Our tour guide called ahead to a glacier activity we were late for, citing heavy traffic. I’m not sure how she got away with that excuse!

No traffic

9.) The history was very interesting.

Iceland is very proud of its history and, as mentioned in Part I of this article, there is artwork and statues everywhere.

Pieces of Icelandic history

10.) Iceland uses as many natural resources as possible for drinking water, to heat their water, and to grow food.

The U.S. and other countries should see what Iceland is doing to reduce their impact on the planet. They use hydro-electric and geothermal sources to generate electricity.

We ate some incredible hot-house tomatoes and cucumbers in Iceland. Many fruits and vegetables are grown in sophisticated greenhouses in order to keep costs down for the residents. Iceland is very expensive. However, having some fruits and veggies grown in the country helps lower the cost of produce, because then it doesn’t have to be imported.

Growing food and heating water

There’s no doubt in my mind I will travel back to Iceland one day, either on my own or bring the kids back with me. We saw so much during our tour, but I know there’s even more to take in.

I remember this one stop we made at a cliff overlooking the ocean. Nobody wanted to get off the bus because of the incredible wind and chill, but once I got off the bus I didn’t want to get back on. I wanted to walk off down the road in my new rain pants, my new rain coat, and my new hiking boots and never see civilization again.

It was the happiest I’ve ever been in recent memory and I took a rare selfie to remember it by.

Inside the glaciers

To answer my dumbfounded neighbor’s question, “Why would you go to Iceland?” my reply is, “Why wouldn’t you?”



Read Part I of Why Reykjavik?


Cathie Nichols, staff member at Milliver's Travels

Catherine Nichols

Originally from the East Coast, Catherine Nichols has spent the last 29 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, and Europe planned, Catherine plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Catherine writes in her blog at and tweets as @bloggoneit.

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